RSC Production's Casting Criticized - By Angela Mitchell Performing Arts Expert
October 25, 2012
The Royal Shakespeare Company, or RSC, is highly regarded most of the time for its stunning track record of classical productions. However, its casting for its latest production of The Orphan of Zhao has resulted in some pointed criticism for its lack of Asian performers in its staging of one of the most famous Chinese plays ever written.
Adapted by James Fenton and directed by Gregory Doran, the RSC production of The Orphan of Zhao features performers of a variety of races and cultures, however the main characters (including the orphan himself) will not be performed by Asian actors. The RSC's casting decision here has generated a variety of blog posts and tweets, including one from acclaimed playwright David Henry Hwang, who especially criticized a poster depicting an Asian child, yet chided the production itself for actually casting Asian actors "only as dogs & a maid." Hwang also went so far as to issue a joint statement about his disappointment in the production's approaches in conjunction with the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, as well.
While I can sympathize with a production not always being able to cast to type at the local or community level (and when, in today's more multicultural world, casting against type can actually be so freeing and vibrant), in the case of a company of the stature and resources of the RSC, who surely could have sought after a more authentic cast here, it does feel like lazy casting -- and a missed opportunity for true artistic exploration that honors its subject. What do you think?
The poster for the Royal Shakespeare Co.'s production of "The Orphan of Zhao," courtesy of The Royal Shakespeare Company